Writings and observations

Please lock me away

prisoner image from old bookIdaho Senator Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, was a little startled by the factoid, and he surely wasn’t alone: In 2006, some 88 prisoners in the Idaho system said they weren’t interested in parole, and would rather stay behind bars.

The item came up Thursday at the budget hearing for the Pardons & Parole Commission, as long-time Director Olivia Craven was delivering the facts and figure about her agency. As the Spokesman-Review‘s Betsy Russell quotes, Cameron, seemed a little baffled: “Explain that to me . . . Are they just enjoying their life in prison so much?”

We followed up and today asked Craven about the refusniks, and she had but limited explanations for what sounds a little odd. She said that over the next year, she plans to pull together more detailed information about this subgroup. But a rough early conclusion or two might be hazarded.

A little background here.

Idaho prisoners who become eligible for parole are automatically scheduled for a hearing; 2,372 became eligible in 2006, and in about two-thirds of the cases parole was granted. But in 88 cases (a little under 5%), inmates informed they were scheduled for a hearing told the staff not to bother. Craven, who has been at the probation and parole office since 1974 and director most of the years since, said the number of non-applicants has been substantial through the years and has been higher than it was last year.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” she said. “These guys – I don’t know if there were any females – are people who either don’t want treatment, because they have to deal with the issues that brought them to prison … [or,] some people don’t want to change … some people who commit crimes don’t want to change.”

She couldn’t think of any common denominators – type of crime, length of sentence, institution where incarcerated – differentiating the 88 from the rest. But she said they tended to be grouped in the medium to higher security levels – relatively more serious crimes. (Though two from the work release programs were in the group also; those were puzzlers.)

The implication is that these inmates are relatively serious, hard-core, criminal personalities: When they do get out, they seem to be say, they want no strings or supervision.

There may be some lessons in all this. When Craven puts together the rest of her analysis on the no-parole inmates, we may all get some useful insight into the thinking of some of the people behind bars.

And we may want to shiver, just a little, at the prospect of the eventual release of the 88.

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2 Comments

  1. Sharon Ullman said:

    “The implication is that these inmates are relatively serious, hard-core, criminal personalities: When they do get out, they seem to be say, they want no strings or supervision.”

    Or could it be that life is better on the inside, with shelter, food, and clothing all being provided? It sure beats life (and death) out on the streets, high on meth! (I’m speculating here, not speaking from personal experience.)

    February 2, 2007
  2. There are a lot of aspects to such decisions, such as probablility of denial, short term remaining (why add strings), no desire to leave, and on.

    February 4, 2007

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